Lazy Sunday XL: Christmas Carols

No, it’s not an “extra large” edition of Lazy Sunday, dear reader:  it’s the fortieth edition of this hallowed tradition.  That’s forty Sundays of thematic reflections, gazing back at the output of fifty weeks of consecutive daily posts.  Yep—today marks the 350th consecutive day of posts here at The Portly Politico.  We’re just fifteen days away from reaching the one-year mark.

Just as yesterday’s SubscribeStar Saturday post on “O Holy Night” (subscribe today for just $1 a month to read it and dozens of other pieces) should have come as no surprise to readers, this Lazy Sunday continues with that theme.  Indeed, we’re looking back at the posts this week (and from last December) about Christmas music:

  • ‘Silent Night’ turns 200” (and “TBT: ‘Silent Night’ turns 200“) – I wrote this post on Christmas 2018.  At the time, the world was celebrating the 200th anniversary of a sweet, simple Christmas carol, and one of my all-time favorites.
  • The Joy of Christmas Carols” – This piece is a reflection on the sheer joy of playing and singing Christmas carols.  Like traditional hymns, carols possess wonderful staying power, and they stick with you powerfully.  I’ve often caught myself singing “Joy to the World” (more below) in the middle of July.  They also beautifully and simply tell the story of Christ.
  • Joy to the World” – “Joy to the World” is somewhere in my Top 5 Favorite Christmas Carols (if such a list actually existed).  The Number One slot goes to our next entry, but “Joy” is up there, for sure.  In this post I analyze the simple but effective use of a descending D major scale to kick off the melody of a song that leaps and bounds across those eight notes, much like the soaring tones of the angels that appeared over Bethlehem that night some 2000 years ago.
  • SubscribeStar Saturday: O Holy Night” – I believe that, objectively, “O Holy Night” is the greatest Christmas song ever.  I used to say the “objectively” part as a joke—how can an opinion be objective reality?—but now I’ve come to believe it.  It’s powerful.  It’s operatic.  And for $1 a month, you can find out why.

That’s it!  We’re closing in on Christmas, rapidly.  Enjoy your Sunday, and Merry Christmas!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: O Holy Night

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The unofficial theme of the blog this week has been Christmas music.  What better way to cap off the week than with a post about the best Christmas song ever written, Adolphe Adam’s “O Holy Night“?

Like its cousin “Silent Night,” the story of “O Holy Night” involves a village’s church organ.  In 1843, the church organ of the French village of Roquemaure had recently been renovated, so the parish priest asked a local wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, to write a poem to commemorate the occasion.  That poem, “Cantique de Noël,” would be set to music a short time later by composer and music critic Adolphe Adam—and Christmas history would be made.

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TBT: “Silent Night” turns 200

The Christmas season—and a pending Christmas concert—has seen me waxing melodic on the holiday’s wonderful music.  As such, today’s TBT is predictable (if anyone were interested in predicting such a thing):  it’s a look back at a short post about the 200th anniversary of the classic carolSilent Night.”

Like “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” is one of my favorite carols.  It’s sweet and simple, but can also be rocked up (the 6/8 time signature and three-chord structure lend the tune to bluesy interpretations, and I’ll occasionally slide in some blue notes when playing the song instrumentally).

It looks like it won’t make it into our Christmas program this year—a rarity—but I’ll be sure to make room for it next year.  Its more operatic cousin, “O Holy Night,” will be our finale, though.  I’ve always linked the two tunes mentally because of their similar names and themes (and they’re both in 6/8).  “O Holy Night” really lends itself to a hard rock interpretation, as my annual “O Holy (To)Night” cover version attests.

Without further adieu, here is Christmas 2019’s “‘Silent Night’ turns 200” (now closing in on 201):

One of my favorite Christmas carols, “Silent Night,” turns 200 this Christmas season.

The carol was originally written as a poem in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars by a village priest, Joseph Mohr, in the village of Oberndorf, Austria, in 1816. Two years later, Mohr approached the town’s choirmaster and organist, Franz Xaver Gruber, to set the poem to music. Gruber agreed, and the carol enjoyed its first performance to a small congregation, which universally enjoyed its simple sweetness.

Since then, the humble hymn has spread far and wide, and is probably the most recognizable Christmas carol globally today. It’s been covered (likely) thousands of times; it’s certainly become a staple of my various Christmas performances.

This simple, sweet, powerful carol beautifully tells the story of Christ’s birth, as well as the import of that transformative moment in history, that point at which God became Flesh, and sent His Son to live among us.

As much as I enjoy classic hard rock and heavy metal, nothing can beat the tenderness of “Silent Night”—except the operatic majesty of “O, Holy Night,” objectively the best Christmas song ever written.

Merry Christmas, and thank God for sending us His Son, Jesus Christ.